Join Richard Griffin at noon Friday for a live baseball Q&A.
There was a baseball news item this week that made me smile. The Brewers are apparently erecting a bronze statue of commissioner Bud Selig in front of Miller Park -- which should make pigeons all over Wisconsin very happy. Of course Selig was the man that campaigned back in the '60s for an expansion team and then for the failed Seattle Pilots franchise to be transferred to Milwaukee after the Braves bailed and took the team to Atlanta. The statue of Selig, the former Brewers' owner, will apparently be seven feet tall. It is believed but not confirmed that Cards manager Tony LaRussa, who presided over Mark McGwire's own physical transformation in Oakland, saw nothing unusual, suspicious or out of the ordinary in the commissioner's late-life growth spurt and called to congratulate Bud on the obvious diligence in the weight room that saw him gain 14 inches in height.
Spring training reporting date for the Jays is just over one week away. Join me on Friday at noon for a live Q&A before heading to Florida next Tuesday. Play Ball and on to this week's mailbag.
Q: Your articles have treated Alex Whoever rather generously. I have no idea why. His legacy has already been written -- he's paying Doc $6 million to pitch elsewhere for nothing in return but luck. But signing Kevin Gregg as a closer is a disaster. He lost the closer job in Florida because of incompetence. He lost the closer job in Chicago because of incompetence. His e.r.a and w.h.i.p. are terrible for a closer. All of Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and Jeremy Accardo are better than Gregg. Let Alex handle the accounting duties and lets get a GM who actually has some baseball smarts.
Ken Goll, Hamilton
A: Alex Anthopoulos has taken the same route to becoming a major-league general manager as many competent executives before him and has demonstrated the maturity and work ethic to handle a front office of advisors that may, in fact, know more about identifying major-league talent than he does. That's a big part of being a GM these days is listening to those that may know better in their certain area of expertise. Anthopoulos does that well, showing a restrained ego in many areas. If you list all the GMs today that have come not from a playing background but from an administrative, scouting and player development background, it would be the majority. Just a sampling of GMs that started young as assistants in baseball administration would include Dave Dombrowski (Tigers), Brian Cashman (Yankees), Theo Epstein (Red Sox), Ed Wade (Astros), Andrew Friedman (Rays), Andy MacPhail (O's), Jon Daniels (Rangers) and others.
As for the Halladay deal, Anthopoulos had a Day-1-of-his-tenure mandate to make the deal as per the desires of Halladay. It's a right Halladay earned to ask the Jays for a trade and to specify destination following his years of loyal service to the franchise. The franchise was not headed immediately in a direction that would have allowed Halladay to win a championship in the next few years. That was the promise J.P. Ricciardi gave him when Doc re-upped with the club in 2007. In any case, with the parameters that Anthopoulos was given in terms of final destination for Doc, the haul he got back in terms of three good prospects was likely as good as it gets. If he had waited any longer the window of opportunity may have closed on his fingers. It may be his legacy but it will not be written until the fate of the three players as major-leaguers is known.
With respect to the deal on December 17th 2009. Who do you like on July 1st, 2010 as your starting pitcher, should you be an anonymous team willing to part with a star player; J.A Happ or Kyle Drabek?
Moses Goldman, York
A: In July of 2010, the major-league-ready lefthander Happ will be the more ready-for-primetime pitcher for the Phillies, but his ceiling is lower than that of Drabek. Likely as early as July 1, 2012 if the same question was asked again, the answer would be Drabek. The 2010 season is going to be a rollercoaster for Jays' fans as the front office finds out who can pitch and who can't; who can play and who can't, all the while competing in the very difficult AL East.
Q: Hi Richard,
The Jays have added a lot of pitchers this off season and with the Roy Halladay trade as well as a few other moves, they've brought in a number of prospects. However, none of these prospects or newly acquired pitchers are really seen as the type of players that can be game-changers. In most sports, when a team is rebuilding they form a strong foundation for the team with top tier prospects and then build around that foundation. With the Jays in full rebuilding mode, is the foundation for the future of this team guys like Travis Snider, Adam Lind, and Aaron Hill? Is Alex Anthopolous going out and picking up all these mediocre prospects and players with the hope that at least one or two of them will develop into an all-star?
Varun Chakravorty, Brampton
A: The first Jays' reality is that like 29 other teams they have to find enough pitching in 2010 to handle 1,450 innings of major-league games combined between starters and pen. Since no starter on the current staff has ever recorded more than 180 major-league innings in a season, if you generously give the top five guys that many frames it still adds up to just 900 innings, meaning there is 550 more to fill. Thus the quantity over quality when it comes to starters. The Jays will use at least 10 starters in 2010. In terms of down the road, there are several potential 200 inning pitchers in Jays camp that have just never done it. There's Shaun Marcum, Romero, Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, Zach Stewart, Jesse Litsch and Dustin McGowan. But right now in 2010 you can't count on any of them for that much work. And no, there's no Roy Halladay in this group, which is why it will be a tough season.
As for the building blocks of the franchise, you are correct in naming Snider, Lind and Hill. The organization would include first baseman Brett Wallace in that mix as well as Vernon Wells who is locked in for the next five seasons unless he opts out after 2011 which is unlikely. They have homegrown catchers on the horizon, so their priority in order to contend is to look for help at one outfield spot, third base and shortstop.
I disagree with your thought that pitchers need to win 50% of starts for the Hall of Fame. In fact, wins are the weakest of statistics to indicate a pitcher's greatness....so, would you vote for Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame and why or why not?
David Talarico, Toronto
A: I have had a Hall-of-Fame vote since the 2005 election as a 10-year member of the BBWAA. I did not vote for Bert Blyleven for the first five ballots. I had my mind changed on Blyleven after reading carefully the various e-mails and releases sent out by his supporters. He came close this year and I will vote for him again next season. Part of the reason that I changed my mind on Blyleven is that it seemed as the years went by that his career numbers of innings pitched, complete games and strikeouts would not be equalled by too many future starters in this wimpy pitch-count world.
In addition to wins, I would like to believe that a Hall-of-Famer over the course of his career was at least the ace starter on his own pitching staff and was one of the most respected and recognized pitchers of his own era. That is a reason I did not vote for Don Sutton, even though he got to Cooperstown despite me. And I respect Sutton as a Hall-of-Famer and congratulate him which is a far cry from many of today's generation of teeth-grinding baseball fans who seem to take it personally when someone gets in that they don't agree with – like Andre Dawson.
Q: Hey Richard, what are the chances Brian Dopirak earns a spot this year? If you had to choose - Scott Downs or Jason Frasor? Jays over/under 70 wins in 2010?
R.N., San Francisco
A: Over the course of time after being in Florida at major-league training camp every spring since 1978, I believe I can look at the young players in uniform in their first camp and make a prediction on whether they are major-leaguers or not. It's all in the way they carry themselves, the way they interact with the veterans and coaches, the way they handle the big-league scene, acting as if they belong without realizing they're being observed. It's in the quieter moments that you can tell the most. Using that criteria, Dopirak is a major-leaguer. However, numbers work against him on the depth chart. In fact, often when you get a reputation as a good minor-league hitter, it stays with you and you are treated merely as an insurance policy. For a good example see Randy Ruiz who ranks above Dopirak on the depth chart and stands in his way. But I like the 26-year-old Dopirak if he ever gets a chance.
As for the closer role, ever since Jason Frasor became confident in his third pitch he has been a solid ninth inning option. Downs was given the opportunity to close after B.J. Ryan left, but his strength is in getting hitters to chase his sweeping breaking ball and that's a dicey ninth-inning talent if you're looking for lights out. However, referring to the Dopirak observation, Frasor has some of the worst body language in the history of closers. With an over/under at 70, I would take the under, but it will be close and the over may look like a slam dunk at the halfway mark. BEWARE THE WALL.
Q: Before the season starts and we focus on the Jays, I wanted to ask about a ridiculous comment I keep hearing about Roy Halladay. Everyone in the US media keeps saying that Halladay is only a small improvement over Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee pitched great last year, but he also pitched against inferior opponents to what Halladay has dominated year after year. Am I missing something here? I predict a 21-23 wins from Doc this year with an ERA below 2.50.
Jason Sinnarajah, Sydney, Australia
A: I also cannot believe the comments about only a “small improvement” between Halladay and Lee. Maybe there is something to that complaint about pitching in Canada and being out of the public eye. None of the national baseball media in the States seems to go out of their way or make a day trip to find a regular season Jays game and in terms of nationally televised games in the U.S., the Jays are only on if they are a Yankee or Red Sox opponent. Prediction for Halladay if he remains healthy for the Phillies: 25-7, 2.90 ERA in 248 innings.
Q: Romero and others mentioned last year that Halladay led by example with his work ethic, and his calm demeanour and approach to the game were stabilizing factors. Is this simply meaningless 'sports interview' filler or is it an important point? Considering the youth of the Jays pitching staff, how important is it for them to sign a veteran starter who can provide some stability for the younger guys? I'm not talking about an ace, but just a solid, experienced major-league starter.
Chris Penney, Ottawa
A: I had the opportunity to speak with coach Brian Butterfield on Tuesday. He and Halladay were notorious at spring training for being the first two guys in the weight room every day even before sunrise. As such, they developed a friendship. Butter had this to say about Halladay.
“He's the best I've ever been around. I'm going to miss him. You feel great that you had an opportunity to be around him and watch him on a daily basis. Even on the days that he didn't pitch it was fun watching him in the weight room and doing his (bullpen session) and watching his (pitchers' fielding drills). When we did our fielding stuff on the back field, Doc always set the tone on whatever we did. If we did a bunt defence, he'd be the first one out on the mound and he would set the tone instantly. He would fire off the mound and throw a strike, a bullet to third base. You'd kind of look around at the kids and the place would be quiet. All the pitchers would say, 'Well, I guess this is the way this drill is going to go.' It would help you as a coach. It would help you as a team.”
That speaks volumes about how much they will miss him. As of this moment, there is no veteran starter in the mix to show the way, but a bunch of these Jays' pitchers are smart enough to remember what Halladay brought to camp and try to emulate that ethic.
Q: Richard: If the Jays are unable to make a trade for Lyle Overbay, have they considered trying him at third base for the interm? After all, he has the appearance of a third baseman, (Roy Howell, Wade Bogs, Mike Schmidt).... Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying he's a future hall of famer, just that his bat could come in handy. Can he make the throw across the diamond? Or is he too slowfooted? Or is it a lefthanded thing? Thanks for the informative Blog.
Big Ken Burns, Matheson
A: People have told me I have the appearance of a millionaire, but no. Even though Overbay does everything else righthanded – writes, signs autographs, shoots hoops, bowls, etc. -- he throw a baseball lefthanded which precludes him from playing third base in the majors. The only lefty third baseman I saw in a major-league game was current Red Sox manager Terry Francona playing for the Expos on October 6, 1985. He entered the game at Shea Stadium in the fourth inning and played four innings at third before being replaced by Vance Law. He loved it. It never happened again. It's all about the footwork and having to turn completely to make a throw to second base...less so to first.